To the accompaniment of voicemail messages from his mother, filmmaker Sean Wang documents a year of living in New York City, far away from home. Deftly blending still photos with the sights and sounds of slice-of-life clips, syncopated by the steady backbeat of the maternal phone recordings, Wang confers a highly personal feel to his short piece while also evoking universal sentiments of the excitement and freedom of new adventures in a new possibility-rich environment.
The production was low budget, the skit pacing was deliberate to the point of slow and the messages were simple. All the ingredients for a failing television program. But Mister Rogers and his Neighborhood — a place filled with friendly adults, a host of puppets and an entire world of make-believe — hit on something special, something that engaged, enlivened and spoke straight to the heart of children. Most of us remember him from childhood, but this moving documentary allows viewers to consider the breadth of both Fred Rogers’ creative genius and influence on American culture. Answer: they were massive, and noble. Whether he was listening intently to a child, using puppets to tackle tough issues like death or reassuring his audience that they were special, the man in the iconic cardigan was unwavering in his motivation: that everyone deserves love.